Dear Active Duty Spouse,
I sat down and read your letter today. Your words flowed so freely and openly. You acknowledged every feeling, every moment, and every experience. You and I are the same, I’ve always thought so. But, you wouldn’t believe what people say to me, or maybe you can, which is why you wrote your letter. It isn’t just the words of the active duty that have shattered my heart into pieces. I remember the day I read a fellow Guard spouse’s words, the day she wrote in black and white that she wasn’t really a military spouse anymore because her spouse had hung up his everyday uniform. Words cannot express what that did to me. How will we get anyone to listen to us if people in our own ranks don’t believe we are important?
Yet, I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place because after awhile, anyone that doesn’t say “I’m fine!” eventually sounds whiny, right?
You see, we aren’t always weekend warriors. We TDY, get activated and deploy like you. We are finance, pilots, medical, and Intelligence. Some of us live near our families and some of us don’t. We live on base next to you, or hours away from the nearest one. We silently scream for help, either unable to ask for help because that would require an explanation, or not knowing how. You might not even realize we are there. When I married into these ranks I had no idea I would find myself to be one of the only spouses in the squadron. I didn’t realize that because we didn’t have a commissary or Child Development Center that we wouldn’t have any family support services. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t view me as a “real” military spouse or that I would constantly have to explain myself. It was devastating.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will go at this alone because not everyone is like you. I wish I could replicate you and have you be every spouse’s best friend. We need people like you in our lives. But the truth is, I don’t want to be the kind of spouse that stands with my hand out waiting for someone to give me something that will supposedly make the time away from my husband easier to deal with. I just want someone to say you matter because most of the time I don’t feel like I matter at all.
It isn’t the free Christmas tree or the baby shower that I want. The spouse retreat, and free holiday meals would be nice, but it’s not really what I need. I almost never see my name in the “who’s eligible” section, so I bet most of us don’t look anymore. I don’t want to believe it’s because they don’t care or don’t think I’m worth their time and effort. I really hope that’s not the case. I want to believe it’s because they don’t understand or don’t realize that the words they are saying hurt. The chatter I hear is that regardless of what that person’s job is, as long as they put on a uniform every day, they are more valuable. They think that if my husband is activated or deployed I will get the support and resources I need. However, 90% of the time I won’t.
Sometimes I am jealous of you. I’m jealous that you can sign up for hourly care at the base because it’s close enough to you. I’m jealous that the USO might give you free tickets to a concert or that Operation Homefront might invite you to a Christmas Party.
What makes you different than others? Why do you see me for who I really am, a military spouse, with no active or National Guard in front of it?
I see you too; I see that our struggles are the same. I see that we search for the same words when our spouses are gone. That sometimes we don’t have it all together. That sometimes we just want to crawl underneath the covers and not let the sunlight in. But like I said before, it isn’t the stuff I want. What I really needed was what you gave me in your letter, acknowledgment. So I printed out your letter and framed it on my wall so that on those days when I am struggling I can look at it and remember. I will remember that not everyone is like some of the people I’ve met in my life. Not everyone views us as second class and not “real” military spouses. I wish there were more people like you.
A National Guard Spouse